Some people welcome friends into their arms with heartfelt hugs. I am not one of them. I will reciprocate hugs, preferably side ones, but I might be the world's most awkward hugger. It just doesn't say love to me.
Instead, when a friend is stressed, I want to love on her (or him) by preparing edible comfort. When big deal things happen in others' lives, I find myself crafting something tasty. That's how I roll.
And that is how I found myself toting frittata ingredients to an old white house in small town, Alabama.
Because, of course, when a bride requests you make a frittata on her wedding morning, you prechop onions, pepper and Conecuh sausage, you preshred you some Monterey jack cheese, and you throw your dishes and your eggs and your olive oil in a bag and take them with you.
And as you relish those moments leading up to the BIG moment, that only-happens-once time that is so precious when spent with close friends, you get those close ones well-nourished in a way that says "this is my hug." And also you put flowers in your hair.
You get bonus point if clearing-rain morning light streams into your kitchen for photo opps, even if the lighting in your steaming skillet shot isn't the greatest.
Friday afternoon I returned home to a mildly chaotic sea of flowers. It was wedding eve for my horticulturist of a roommate, and the clock was ticking for team wedding to finish arrangements, bouquets and boutineers before the rehearsal. Add to that news of a possibility of rain for an outdoor ceremony and that the photographer could be stuck in New York for the ceremony, and yeah, the state of the flowers was indicative of the mood in the space.
Before I stepped into help with direct wedding matters, I went to the fridge to pull out the previous night's treasure, Saveur's wonder of a chocolate cream pie recipe, encased in an Oreo crust and topped with real-deal whipping cream.
Slices of decadence were distributed, chocolate was consumed, florals were completed and a beauty of a wedding ensued.
I'd like to say that when the seas of my life turn to chaos that I want to turn to a greater, perfect savior, but the truth is I am drawn to seek comfort in the family of chocolate. Cookies, pies, cakes —
they are what I crave to satiate my desire for still waters.
Clearly my priorities get mixed up, but thinking of the richness of creamy chocolate reminds me of words a flower party member I had only met the night before told me, "I like that you are the kind of people who pulled out pie in a time like that."
There's a place for words of greater truth, but there's also a place for wordless love in chocolate form.
5. Faux carbs a.k.a. cauliflower rolls. It's a real thing. And it tastes pretty good topped with Parmesan.
6. Whip out a sugar-free berry-lemon jello mold straight from 1975. Do a victory dance if it comes out of your mold in decent form. Warning: do not consume the berries if on sugarless diet. They simple serve as candle holders.
Verdict: Birthday meal success. Throw in some close friends, tell them to share super special things about the super special birthday girl, and it's pretty much the best thing that could happen to an introvert, at least in the introverted hostess' opinion.
Now that we are exiting soup season, my make-a-dish-I-can-eat-off-of-all-week strategy has shifted to grainy salads. This week's adventure was my first with farro, which is kind of like a thick brown rice. I like how nutty and filling it is, so much so that I wasn't even looking for meat.
It meets the standards my mom taught me from her college home ec classes (those weren't in our catalog)- variety of texture, color and temperature (only if your farro's still kind of warm and your cheese is cold, but still).
However, keep your eaters in mind. This is for the grain-adventurous. My coworkers enjoy talking about how farro salad at a new restaurant near us is "bird seed."
Theory: all things small and cute have a positive correlation to requiring hard work. This applies to puppies. This applies to small children. This applies to miniature sugary delicacies.
Behold, the product of umpteen batches of light and fruity lil' cakes in my miniature doughnut pan (yep, I ordered one of those once upon a time and finally got around to putting it to use).
It's fun to fascinate friends who brunch and who don't have doughnut baking pans on their radar with little cakes in a circular shape. For now, I'll make these and let Krispy Kreme do the frying. Amendment: Maybe I'll invest in a regular-sized doughnut pan so I can cut time of tedium and try again.
I allow hostesses say-so in dessert requests, especially if they say something like "chocolate and caramel, preferably" when I offer.
Behold, cool chocolate mousse nestled atop sticky (but not too sticky) sweet caramel with a simple graham cracker crust to balance out all that decadence. It was declared a winner by those who fully appreciate chocolate among my sphere of influence. In fact, it received the rarely granted "I might need that for my birthday" award from a certain musical member of that sphere for the first time since my Caramel Brownies. That's serious.
Two weeks later, the flowers from ever-thoughtful ladies in my house are still thriving. The pie met its death by consumption within 24 hours.